Reflections on Humanae Vitae

Humanae Vitae (“Of Human Life”) is an encyclical issued by Blessed Pope Paul VI on Jul 25, 1968. Subtitled “On the Regulation of Birth”, it re-affirms the constant teaching of the Church regarding abortion, contraception, and other issues pertaining to human life and love.

In this document, Blessed Pope Paul VI predicted a number of consequences should contraception be accepted and promoted, one of which was:

“…how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.

…a man…may forget the reverence due to a woman, and…reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires…”

I realise how uncannily prophetic HV has been during these 21 years in my general practice.

  1. Over the years I have seen an increase in requests for contraceptives or morning after pill among teenagers. Sadly, in medical decision making nowadays, I have to assume that a teenager is sexual active until proven otherwise. I can’t forget the many cases whereby young women burst into tears when their pregnancy tests are positive and how the guys are dazed and at a loss as to what to do. Almost invariably abortion follows. I have noticed how difficult it is to counsel contracepting couples (even married couples) to keep their babies. Their minds seemed made up. Another child appears to be too much of a burden in modern life.
  1. I am also treating an increasing number of STI (sexually transmitted infections) in husbands working overseas who sheepishly admitted they would not otherwise have taken a risk with prostitutes if not for the false sense of security offered by condoms. Some go on to infect their wives with incurable diseases like genital herpes. I have witnessed families destroyed as the wives become depressed and suspicious while others end in divorce.
  1. How often have I heard wives resent the fact that sex is just another chore to them. The most vivid description I recall must be this: “He knows I’m always available, he wants it- I just spread my legs and count to ten. If not he’d go look for someone else”. It’s certainly sad to see how what is so beautiful degenerate to such a state.

In contrast, I am edified by the wonderful stories of couples who  practise NFP (Natural Family Planning) These wives often express that they feel loved & respected , not used.  There is that certain self-mastery that develops in the husband that reassures the woman that she has married an exceptional and faithful man. Not only is NFP effective in helping couples plan their families generously and responsibly, but stories abound of how they rejoice in their babies as gifts, whether in anticipation or in retrospect.  It is wonderful for me to witness how their marital relationships have blossomed with the passing of time by faithfully practicing NFP proposed by HV.

It is now clear to me now how contraception opposes the total, faithful & fecund gift of self to one’s spouse, hence frustrating God’s beautiful plan.

How could the Church possibly have known these 50 years ago? To me, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is the only adequate explanation.

Looking back, I can only thank God that He left us His Church as our infallible guide through the moral storms of our earthly sojourn.

I exhort my brothers & sisters in-Christ to learn and promote NFP, study HV (it takes 2 hours to read), pray it, live it and share its life-giving message.

We will then in our little way, be fulfilling Christ’s command to “proclaim the Good News to all of creation”

About the author:

Dr Gabriel Seow and his wife Teresa are Family Physicians in private practice. They both serve in the Catholic Medical Guild (CMG) and the Marriage Preparation Course (MPC) in our Archdiocese.

What HV has said:

About marital love:

‘Married love…reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who “is love,” … for it represents the union of Christ and His Church.” (HV, 8)

It is “the… total gift of one self in a very special form of personal friendship,faithful & exclusive until death, this love is fecund and by nature “ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare.” (HV, 9)

To doctors and nurses:

They should “regard it as an essential part of their skill to make themselves fully proficient in this difficult field of medical knowledge. For then, when married couples ask for their advice, they may be in a position to give them right counsel and to point them in the proper direction.”(HV, 27)

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